Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Collaborative arrangements and privately practising nurse practitioners in Australia: results from a national survey

Jane Currie A B , Mary Chiarella A and Thomas Buckley A

A Sydney Nursing School, University of Sydney, 88 Mallett Street, Camperdown, NSW 2050, Australia. Email: mary.chiarella@sydney.edu.au; tom.buckley@sydney.edu.au

B Corresponding author. Email: jane.currie@sydney.edu.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16051
Submitted: 24 February 2016  Accepted: 26 July 2016   Published online: 9 September 2016

Abstract

Objective Since the introduction of legislative changes in 2010, services provided by privately practising nurse practitioners (PPNPs) in Australia have been eligible for subsidisation through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). To provide eligible services, PPNPs must collaborate formally with a medical practitioner or an entity that employs medical practitioners. This paper provides data from a national survey on these collaborative arrangements in Australia. The aim of the study was to evaluate the impact of PPNP services on patient access to care in Australia.

Methods PPNPs in Australia were invited to complete an electronic survey. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics, whereas qualitative data were analysed using thematic analysis. Seventy-three surveys were completed.

Results Ninety-three per cent of participants reported having a collaborative arrangement in place. Frequency of communication ranged from daily (27%) to never (1%). Participants reported that collaborative arrangements facilitate learning, patient care and offer support to PPNPs. However, for some PPNPs, organising a formal collaborative arrangement is demanding because it is dependent on the availability and willingness of medical practitioners and the open interpretation of the arrangement. Only 19% of participants believed that collaborative arrangements should be a prerequisite for PPNPs to access the MBS and PBS.

Conclusion Although there are benefits to collaborative arrangements, there is also concern from PPNPs that mandating such arrangements through legislation presents a barrier to establishing PPNP services and potentially reduces patient access to care. Collaboration with medical practitioners is intrinsic to nursing practice. Thus, legislating for collaborative arrangements is unnecessary, because it makes the normal abnormal.

What is known about the topic? To access the MBS and PBS, PPNPs are required by law to have a collaborative arrangement with a medical practitioner or entity that employs medical practitioners. To date, the effects of these collaborative arrangements on PPNP services in Australia have not been known.

What does the paper add? This paper provides unique data from a national survey on collaborative arrangements between PPNPs and medical practitioners in Australia.

What are the implications for practitioners? Although there are benefits to collaborative arrangements, there is also concern that mandating such arrangements presents a barrier to establishing PPNP services and potentially reduces patient access to care.

Additional keywords: primary health care, nurse-led clinics.


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